Vital Statistics - Stillbirth Database

Detailed information for 2010





Record number:


This is an administrative survey that collects demographic information annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all stillbirths (fetal deaths) in Canada.

Data release - September 27, 2012


This is an administrative survey that collects demographic information annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all stillbirths (fetal deaths) in Canada. Some data are also collected on stillbirths to Canadian resident women in some American states.

The data are used to calculate basic indicators (such as counts and rates) on stillbirths to Canadian resident women. Information from this database is also used in the calculation of statistics, such as the late fetal death rate and the perinatal death rate. Information from the Stillbirth database is found in both the birth and death annual publications.

For Canada as a whole, it was impossible to compile a satisfactory series of vital statistics prior to 1921. Eight provinces initially joined the cooperative Canadian vital statistics system, leading to the publication of the first annual report for Canada in 1921; that report included Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Quebec began to participate in 1926 and Newfoundland in 1949 (after joining Confederation) and their data were included in the tabulations from those years onward. Basic data from the Yukon and Northwest Territories were published as appendices to the national tables from 1924 to 1955; their data were first included in the regular tabulations in 1956. Nunavut came into being officially as a Territory of Canada on April 1, 1999. The name Northwest Territories applies to a Territory with different geographic boundaries before and after April 1, 1999.

Prior to 1944 all vital events were classified by place of occurrence. Since 1944, births, stillbirths, and deaths have been classified by area of reported residence, with births and stillbirths according to the residence of the mother.

For more details, see the document "History, Vital Statistics - Stillbirth Database" in the Documentation section.

Reference period: Calendar year

Collection period: From the beginning of the reference period until six months after the end of the reference period


  • Births and deaths
  • Health
  • Life expectancy and deaths
  • Population and demography
  • Pregnancy and births

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The conceptual universe of the Stillbirth database is stillbirths to Canadian resident women anywhere in the world.

The target population of the Stillbirth database is stillbirths to Canadian resident women in Canada and to Canadian resident women in American states.

The actual (survey) population of the Stillbirth database is stillbirths to Canadian resident women and non-resident women in Canada, and stillbirths to Canadian resident women in some American states.

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

No sampling is done.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are extracted from administrative files.

Provincial and territorial Vital Statistics Acts (or equivalent legislation) render compulsory the registration of all live births, stillbirths, deaths and marriages within their jurisdictions. These Acts follow, as closely as possible, a Model Vital Statistics Act that was developed to promote uniformity of legislation and reporting practices among the provinces and territories.

The Canadian Vital Statistics system operates under an agreement between the Government of Canada and governments of the provinces and territories. The Vital Statistics Council for Canada, an advisory committee set up by an Order-in-Council, oversees policy and operational matters. All provincial and territorial jurisdictions and Statistics Canada are represented on the Vital Statistics Council. Under the agreement, all registrars collect a specified set of data elements, although any of them may decide to collect additional information.

The form for the registration of a stillbirth is usually completed by the parents, who are responsible for filing it with the local, provincial or territorial registrar. Stillbirth registration requires a medical certificate of the cause of stillbirth to be completed by a physician or coroner.

The central Vital Statistics Registry in each province and territory provides data from stillbirth registrations to Statistics Canada. The following statistical data items are reported for each stillbirth by all provinces and territories for inclusion in the Canadian Vital Statistics system (non-exhaustive list):

- Date and place of stillbirth
- Sex, birth weight and gestational age of fetus (See "History, Vital Statistics - Stillbirths Database" for further information on definitions of stillbirth related to birth weight and gestational age).
- Parents' age, marital status and birthplace
- Mother's place of residence
- Type of birth (single or multiple)
- Parity

All provinces and territories supply microfilm, or optical images of registration forms to Statistics Canada. In addition, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and the Western provinces supply machine-readable abstracts of registrations, which contain the required standard information. For Newfoundland and Labrador, and the territories, the required standard information on paper is converted to machine-readable format at Statistics Canada.

Starting with the data for reference year 2006, the electronic transfer was performed by sending the data via the National Routing System (NRS) according to Statistics Canada standards. The effective date for this method of transmission varies by province (2006 for Alberta and British Columbia; 2008 for Manitoba; 2009 for Nova Scotia and 2010 for Prince Edward Island and Ontario).

Subsequent changes to registrations due to errors, amendments or omissions are transmitted to Statistics Canada as the information becomes available. However, changes received after a cut-off date are not reflected in published tabulations.

Error detection

Provinces and territories that supply machine-readable data carry out edits (edit validation and data consistency) before transmitting their data, based on standard edit specifications prepared by Statistics Canada. Health Statistics Division has actively promoted the use of a standard data dictionary and standard correlation edits for provincial/territorial data entry. More extensive edit routines are applied to the data by Statistics Canada to ascertain the completeness and quality of the data. For example, additional edits for multiple births identify possible errors and inconsistencies between the stillbirth and birth databases. If the characteristics of the mother of triplets (1 live born and 2 stillborn) are different on the separate registration forms, manual updates make these data consistent on both the birth and stillbirth databases. After the preparation of a preliminary data file, verification tables are prepared for data review by the registries and Statistics Canada (for example, distributions, large changes, percentage and number of unknowns, outliers, changes in the relative composition).

The last comprehensive study of the quality of data capture and data coding was done in 1981, when error rates for most variables were found to be quite low. Most provinces do their own data capture, but because of the small size of the Stillbirth database, it is often faster for Statistics Canada to re-capture the records from the microfilms rather than wait for electronic files which usually require reformatting. For the 2010 data, Operations and Integration Division (OID) data captured about 17% (approximately 457) of the stillbirth records. OID maintains data capture quality controls such as 100% verification for new clerks, and sample batch re-capture for experienced clerks to maintain an error rate of less than 3%. For 2003 data, Statistics Canada captured the records of unscreened data from Ontario, which resulted in a higher than usual number of stillbirths. Normal Statistics Canada procedures such as duplicate detection, were carried out on the data.


This administrative survey does not produce estimates

Quality evaluation

Upon completion of the annual national stillbirth data base (produced as described in the section Error Detection above), Statistics Canada carries out a series of quality checks that include:

1) producing a set of verification tables which consist of basic tabulations for the majority of variables in the data base by province or territory of occurrence;
2) sending the verification tables to each provincial/territorial registrar of vital statistics for their review and approval that Statistics Canada and the registry obtain the same results;
3) checking for internal consistencies, for example, running frequencies and looking for outliers on certain data elements; and
4) comparing the most recent data year with past data years to detect any unusual or unexpected changes.

Comparisons of tabulated data are made with vital statistics data published by the provinces and territories, where available.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy


Since the registration of stillbirths is a legal requirement in each Canadian province and territory, reporting is virtually complete, with some important exceptions. Quebec uses slightly more limited reporting criteria (500 or more grams birth weight, compared with 500 or more grams birth weight or a gestational age of at least 20 weeks used in other provinces). New Brunswick does not require the registration of stillbirths meeting the reporting criteria when the fetus is removed during a therapeutic abortion. Stillbirth rates may be slightly underestimated in these provinces as a result. Under-coverage may also occur because of late registration. Some stillbirths are registered by local authorities, but the paperwork is not forwarded to provincial or territorial registrars before a cut-off date. These cases for 2000 represent approximately 40 stillbirths, 7 years after the year of stillbirth (accumulated late records), or two percent of the total records.

Other missing registrations may occur with Canadian women who have a stillbirth outside of Canada. Only stillbirths in the United States are regularly reported to Statistics Canada, and of these, Statistics Canada has received only three records over the past decade.

Over-coverage is minimal. Stillbirths to non-resident women in Canada are registered but are excluded from most tabulations. Duplicate stillbirth registrations are identified as part of the regular processing operations on each provincial and territorial subset, as well as by additional inter-provincial checks. Additional edits for multiple births identify possible duplicates or missing records between the stillbirth and birth databases. Possible duplicate registrations are checked against microfilmed registrations or optical images, or by consulting with the provinces and territories.

Response rates

Item response

For 2010, the response rates varied from 90% to 100% for most of the demographic variables on the stillbirth database (age of mother, sex of fetus, province of residence of mother).


Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: